Nature, Vol.577, No.7790, 350-+, 2020
Transparent ferroelectric crystals with ultrahigh piezoelectricity
Transparent piezoelectrics are highly desirable for numerous hybrid ultrasound-optical devices ranging from photoacoustic imaging transducers to transparent actuators for haptic applications(1-7). However, it is challenging to achieve high piezoelectricity and perfect transparency simultaneously because most high-performance piezoelectrics are ferroelectrics that contain high-density light-scattering domain walls. Here, through a combination of phase-field simulations and experiments, we demonstrate a relatively simple method of using an alternating-current electric field to engineer the domain structures of originally opaque rhombohedral Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O-3-PbTiO3 (PMN-PT) crystals to simultaneously generate near-perfect transparency, an ultrahigh piezoelectric coefficient d(33) (greater than 2,100 picocoulombs per newton), an excellent electromechanical coupling factor k(33) (about 94 per cent) and a large electro-optical coefficient gamma(33) (approximately 220 picometres per volt), which is far beyond the performance of the commonly used transparent ferroelectric crystal LiNbO3. We find that increasing the domain size leads to a higher d(33) value for the -oriented rhombohedral PMN-PT crystals, challenging the conventional wisdom that decreasing the domain size always results in higher piezoelectricity(8-10). This work presents a paradigm for achieving high transparency and piezoelectricity by ferroelectric domain engineering, and we expect the transparent ferroelectric crystals reported here to provide a route to a wide range of hybrid device applications, such as medical imaging, self-energy-harvesting touch screens and invisible robotic devices.